Ohio State Researchers to Launch $4.3 million Center to Study Vehicle Safety

News Release Date: 
10.10.13

Columbus, Ohio – Researchers at The Ohio State University hope to save lives and reduce the severity of human injuries in auto accidents by looking closely at what happens in the final seconds before vehicle collisions.

The goal of the university’s new Crash Imminent Safety University Transportation Center (UTC) is to increase understanding of technology design and improve the ways humans interact with intelligent, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. The research will include developing advanced accident simulators, performing extensive modeling, analyzing past accidents and developing autonomous vehicles – all with the goal of making the U.S. transportation system the safest in the world.

The center and its research will be funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The university will receive $1.41 million in 2013 and has requested an additional $1.5 million for 2014. The award and associated cost sharing total $4.3 million over the first two years of operation.

Partner universities working with Ohio State on the UTC are Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis; North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro; University of Massachusetts in Amherst; and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. 

“During the last few years the introduction of autonomous cars into human-driven traffic has raised safety concerns about the design of these vehicles and how humans will react to them,” said Umit Ozguner, Ohio State professor of electrical and computer engineering and head of the research center. ”Analyzing what happens in a vehicle in the moments leading up to and during an accident is critical to understanding how to mitigate injuries and fatalities.

“By studying drivers’ actions and how vehicles behave in that short period of time, engineers should be able to design safer vehicles. This research will become even more critical in the years to come as even more advanced vehicles are developed.”

A key component of the research will be development of a common, networked driver simulation that will allow researchers to experiment with pre-crash safety through simulated accidents. 

“A networked simulation with multiple human drivers gives us a closer approximation to real-world driving situations,” said Janet Weisenberger, director of Ohio State’s Driving Simulation Laboratory and one of the investigators on the project. “Because people can be unpredictable, this networked simulation will give us a better way to evaluate human driving behavior and decision-making, and use that information to design the best possible autonomous systems for cars.”

Ohio State boasts world-class facilities, from a new driving simulator to resources at the Center for Automotive Research. Collectively, the university’s activity and expertise aligns extremely well with the development of autonomous ground vehicles, driver behavior, biomechanics and all automotive safety technologies.

The center also will leverage extensive existing facilities and field experiments being conducted at Ohio State’s Transportation Research Center (TRC) with the common, networked driver simulation to create an unprecedented ability to experimentally address pre-crash safety.

The Department of Transportation said this type of research is critical in reducing deaths, injuries and property damage from accidents. According to Ozguner, “Motor vehicle travel has the highest fatality and injury rates per capita of all modes of transportation. It accounts for nearly 95 percent of transportation-related fatalities and drains more than $230 billion from the economy each year.”

“University transportation centers are key to helping us address today’s transportation needs, from environmental sustainability to safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The participating universities are a critical part of our national transportation strategy and to developing a professional workforce with the expertise and knowledge to tackle the challenges of the future.”

The award to Ohio State’s consortium was part of a $63 million transportation safety grant package announced from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). The grant package will fund projects at 33 UTCs nationwide. More than 142 applications were submitted to RITA for the grants. 

About The Ohio State University

Ohio State is a dynamic community of diverse resources, where opportunity thrives and where individuals transform themselves and the world. Founded in 1870, The Ohio State University is a world-class public research university and the leading comprehensive teaching and research institution in the state of Ohio. With more than 63,000 students (including 57,000 in Columbus), the Wexner Medical Center, 14 colleges, 80 centers and 175 majors, the university offers its students tremendous breadth and depth of opportunity in the liberal arts, the sciences and the professions.